“Already?” cried the young lady in horror, as she threw herself on her knees at Djalma’s feet. “Death already? Do you hide your face from me?”
In her fright, she pulled his hands from before his face. That face was bathed in tears.
“No, not yet,” murmured he, through his sobs. “The poison is slow.”
“Really!” cried Adrienne, with ineffable joy. Then, kissing the hands of Djalma, she added tenderly, “If the poison is slow, why do you weep?”
“For you! for you!” said the Indian, in a heart-rending tone.
“Think not of me,” replied Adrienne, resolutely. “You have killed, and we must expiate the crime. I know not what has taken place; but I swear by our love that you did not do evil for evil’s sake. There is some horrible mystery in all this.”
“On a pretence which I felt bound to believe,” replied Djalma, speaking quickly, and panting for breath, “Faringhea led me to a certain house. Once there, he told me that you had betrayed me. I did not believe him, but I know not what strange dizziness seized upon me—and then, through a half-obscurity, I saw you—”
“No—not you—but a woman resembling you, dressed like you, so that I believed the illusion—and then there came a man—and you flew to meet him—and I—mad with rage—stabbed her, stabbed him, saw them fall—and so came here to die. And now I find you only to cause your death. Oh, misery! misery! that you should die through me!”
And Djalma, this man of formidable energy, began again to weep with the weakness of a child. At sight of this deep, touching, passionate despair, Adrienne, with that admirable courage which women alone possess in love, thought only of consoling Djalma. By an effort of superhuman passion, as the prince revealed to her this infernal plot, the lady’s countenance became so splendid with an expression of love and happiness, that the East Indian looked at her in amazement, fearing for an instant that he must have lost his reason.
“No more tears, my adored!” cried the young lady, exultingly. “No more tears—but only smiles of joy and love! Our cruel enemies shall not triumph!”
“What do you say?”
“They wished to make us miserable. We pity them. Our felicity shall be the envy of the world!”
“Oh! I have all my senses about me. Listen to me, my adored! I now understand it all. Falling into a snare, which these wretches spread for you, you have committed murder. Now, in this country, murder leads to infamy, or the scaffold—and to-morrow—to-night, perhaps—you would be thrown into prison. But our enemies have said: ’A man like Prince Djalma does not wait for infamy—he kills himself. A woman like Adrienne de Cardoville does not survive the disgrace or death of her lover—she prefers to die.’”
“Therefore a frightful death awaits them both,” said the black-robed men; “and that immense inheritance, which we covet—’”